How We're Keeping Our Wedding Costs Down
Weddings are EXPENSIVE. Let’s just get that out there now. But they don’t need to be cripplingly so; not if you’re smart anyway.
First things first, budgeting is absolutely pivotal. There is simply no point in losing your heart to a Pinterest wedding that costs £70,000 only to discover that really, your top-line budget is £10k. Be realistic. And remember, weddings are absolutely not about how much everything cost - it’s all about the love in the room, between the bride and groom of course, but between friends and families too.
I digress. BUDGETING.
When we first sat down to think about our wedding, back in January 2018, we had a conversation about the kind of wedding we wanted, and what was important to us. Then, we went through our finances and worked out how much we could save each month. That helped us to decide two major things very early on in the process: how much we could afford to spend realistically, and when our wedding could actually be. We knew that with what we were able to save and how we wanted our day to be, a spring 2019 wedding wouldn’t be possible, but autumn 2019 could be (plus, September’s my favourite month anyway…).
I think we probably could have been stricter with our budget, but at the same time, we knew we’d have 21 months to save up, and so if there were any added extras, new costs or unexpected ones, we’d likely have a few months where we naturally spent less and could afford to pop a little bit more into the wedding pot to cover it.
It probably does pay to be a little more organised with your budgeting though; we found out the hard way that when it comes to weddings, some things are way, WAY more expensive than you’d ever imagine. Case in point: £8,000 for an empty barn in the middle of nowhere? I’ll pass, thanks, but it still stings a bit to cross something off of your wishlist because it’s too expensive.
It was getting these kinds of jolts that made us understand that to have our dream day, we’d need to think cleverly in order to get costs down and make it all affordable, with as little compromise as possible. I wouldn’t say that we’re having a budget wedding at all, (it’s actually more expensive than we initially thought), but we have a firm budget in place now and we’re trying to do something amazing with it. We’re not perfect and we have definitely said ‘screw it, it’s our wedding day!’ more than a couple of times, but overall I think we’re doing really well in trying to keep our costs low and making our wedding day perfect for us, but also affordable for us.
Read on for how we’ve been trying to keep our costs down for our big day…
Pick a few non-negotiables that you’re willing to spend big on
Whilst it is of course completely possible to have a beautiful wedding on a budget, I do firmly believe that with anything of quality or significant importance, you definitely get what you pay for. So, there are bound to be instances where going cheap simply isn’t an option, especially if it’s something very important to your day, and if those things really are super important to you, then there isn’t very much point in trying to get them for rock-bottom prices.
Straight away, we had a couple of things that were, as I like to call it, ‘fuck the budget’ items, which we knew were non-negotiable: photography and music.
Lewis and I met whilst studying music and so it’s always been a huge part of our story, but it’s also hugely important to the atmosphere of a wedding. Years ago, we started speaking about the kind of band we’d want if we ever got married - and we actually found them! Our dream wedding band, who are absolutely nothing like a wedding band, seriously cool and amazing at what they do. They’re not cheap, but they’ll be worth every penny. We’ve also paid extra to have them perform during the daytime too, which again, could have been covered by a Spotify playlist (and that will be the case for most of the afternoon), but it was something that we really wanted to have for a significant section of the day, so we’ve stretched the budget to cover it.
Our other non-negotiable was photography. To get the best costs a fair whack, as wedding photography is certainly not cheap, but after the day is done, the cake’s been eaten and the dress has been boxed away, what you have left is the photographs. The tangible memory of the day is tied up in your wedding pictures, so it’s super important to make sure that you love them. We had a specific style in mind, and after doing our research, a specific photographer. So we got her! Again, she’s one of the biggest investments of the day and certainly at the very top of our budget, but every wedding she shoots, we’re blown away by the results, so it’s something that’s completely worth it to us.
Everything else beyond this had to be strictly budgeted and a ceiling price put firmly in place. But nothing feels like too much of a compromise when you know you have your first choices in your most important categories!
Pick independent or smaller suppliers
For the rest of our wedding vendors, we have a real mix of established companies who charge a little bit more (with the reputation to back it up) and smaller, independent vendors who are still fairly new to the wedding industry and therefore don’t charge the earth for their services.
Everybody has to start somewhere, and for weddings on a budget, it’s definitely worth looking past the vendors that you see everywhere and doing a bit more research, to find somebody just as good who just doesn’t have decades of experience yet, and is looking to build their portfolios and client base. It often means you’ll get something of wonderful quality but for a comparably lower cost.
Our venue was probably the biggest participant in this category - when we first viewed it, it was a literal building site, and so we had to use plenty of imagination to visualise it as our wedding venue. We were the first couple to book it, and in light of this, the venue were able to give us a good price because they appreciated what a leap of faith it would be from us to go for it.
Other vendors in this category include our florist, makeup artist, wedding car and cake baker; they’re all amazing, but still fairly new to the industry, and so they are currently much more affordable for their beautiful work. Our florist was recommended to us by friends who used her for their own wedding, and our baker was recommended through the owner of the wedding blog I write for. I found my wedding car through a styled shoot at our venue, and the makeup artist sometimes shoots with the magazine I work for. It’s absolutely worth seeking out smaller, indie suppliers if you’re on a budget, as you’re both helping each other.
Use what you have
So here, I’m talking about what you can offer vendors, if there’s any kind of deal you can strike that suits both parties. Some vendors are open to negotiating on price, and some are not - and if you’re also trying to stick to a budget whilst planning your big day, you’ll need to have this conversation with all of your vendors to find out who falls under which category. It’s awkward, yes, but essential.
I treated negotiations with vendors like proposing a collaboration. I obviously write this here blog, and I also write a wedding blog on another website, as well as writing for a national glossy magazine - so it’s fair to say that I have a very good platform to offer vendors, should they want to be a part of it. So with some, we were able to reach agreements where they could offer us a reduced rate in exchange for visibility and promotion. This was especially good for smaller or newer vendors who really want to reach a larger audience, so it was a compromise that worked for everybody. If you can do the same, there’s no harm in having the conversation.
I also used contacts where I could, meaning that we got a beautiful engagement shoot with a photographer colleague of mine, for the price of a bottle of wine! We love those pictures and it taught us how to relax in front of the camera, which will be invaluable come the wedding day. Think about friends and colleagues, if anyone is looking to build a portfolio in a certain area or is just able to help, it can save you lots of money and/or heartache in the long run.
This was a tricky area for us to work out in terms of budget. We both love fashion, we both really care about how we look, and it wasn’t something that we necessarily wanted to scrimp on - whilst also being painfully aware that, for me at least, these are outfits that likely will only be worn once.
I found my dress at Olive Jones Bridal, a bridal boutique owned by a friend not far from my flat. It was a true ‘fuck the budget’ dress though, which had not been budgeted for at all, and would have been entirely impossible for me to buy had I not been able to purchase an unworn sample - saving me literally thousands of pounds. And I bought it 15 months before the wedding, giving me plenty of time to save a bit extra to cover the increased cost. Clever folk have long engagements… But seriously though, if your dream dress is a bit more extravagant than you’d planned for, seriously consider buying a sample. You don’t have to attend one of those mad sample sales; if you ask nicely, some boutiques might be happy to just sell you it there and then. At the most, a sample dress will have only been worn by a handful of people for five minutes at a time, and it will likely be in pristine condition - plus you can obviously get it cleaned and a seamstress will take care of it in alterations too. It’s definitely worth it if you’re stretching your budget beyond reason.
I’ve definitely been more sensible with accessories; my shoes are from the high street, and I’ve been using sites like The Outnet to find accessories and accoutrements at lower prices.
bridesmaids and groomsmen
Buying four dresses that suited everyone was always going to be tricky, and to try and reduce the financial impact, I shopped in sales seasons only. I did end up having to extend the budget slightly (budgeting too low in the first instance and then adding a fourth bridesmaid will stretch the pennies a little!) but we’ve gotten there in the end. The girls are wearing their own shoes and accessories too, which reduces my costs a little more and ensures that they are comfortable all day as well.
For the best men and groomsmen, we were able to take advantage of a special offer that gave us two free hires when we purchased Lewis’s outfit, bringing the total cost slightly under budget for what was otherwise set to be something else creeping over the limit.
DIY as much as possible
We both love beautiful stationery, but we knew it was never going to be something we could afford to go big on. Lewis has a background in graphic design and a great eye for detail, so we just decided to do it ourselves. Lewis designed the save the dates, invitations and gift registry notice for us to send to guests, along with a beautiful monogram that I had turned into foiled stickers in lieu of pricey wax seals. We used printed.com to print them on a weekend when they had a discount code and free delivery, bringing the cost right down; when you opt for their wedding package they send you card stock samples and a mini brochure, so that you can pick your perfect paper stock and weight, and feel totally confident in your order.
I then wrote and addressed them myself. Yes, in an ideal world we’d have paid a calligrapher to do a beautiful job of them, but that was an expense we just couldn’t justify, to be perfectly honest. I have fairly nice handwriting and did my ‘best’ version for the envelopes and the invitations themselves, but we knew that the invitations would be playing second fiddle to our wedding website anyway. We also sent everything second class - postage is so expensive, and invitations shouldn’t be an urgent send anyway.
A huge cost saving was setting up a wedding website, allowing us to include all of the info our guests could possibly need and more besides, all for free! We used With Joy, which actually was a total joy, and meant we could have a gorgeous portal for important info for our guests to revisit whenever they need to. No need to pay for menu slips, acceptance/rejection slips, return envelopes and postage - it’s all free and easy. I couldn’t recommend it more! I spent a few months working on it, tweaking finer details and honing it until it felt perfect.
Without giving away too much for our wedding guests who might be reading this, we’ve also DIYed a lot of decor for the wedding. It’s really helped us to keep costs minimal, but it’s also super personal now too. And for the decor we have purchased, we’ve tried to shop clever - using discount codes or shopping in the sales to get what we need. We’ve also stuck to the rule of when it comes to decor, it either has to be able to have a place in our home afterwards, or it can be easily resold.
Speaking of which, definitely pay attention to wedding resale websites if you’re working to a tighter budget; plenty of brides have lots of gorgeous decor for sale after their own weddings at slashed prices, and of course it’s all only been used once anyway. We’ve found some brilliant bargains through sites like Sell My Wedding, and we’ll be using them again post-wedding to sell on any bits that won’t work in the home. Gumtree, Depop, eBay, Preloved and others are all invaluable too - you can find some real gems, or else save serious cash on bits that you were planning to buy anyway.